The summer is flying by despite the lack of sun shine and the tern breeding season here in Langstone Harbour is already half way through.  It's been a tough one to be sure but there have been some silver linings and there is still the potential for a lot more.  Let me take you though the season so far.

  As regular readers of this blog will know, the little tern breeding season didn't start well at all (see previous blog here) with much smaller numbers than usual frequenting the harbour and their first breeding attempt failing very early on.  The causes of this have been becoming clearer as time has passed and it now looks certain that a witches brew of combined issues led to this failure.  

  The main factor appears to be a lack of suitable food locally.  Our annual small fish surveys, carried out alongside Langstone Harbour Board, The University of Portsmouth's Institute of Marine Sciences and the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority have been indicating a reduced number of fish suitable for terns within the harbour during the first part of the breeding season.  This has been backed up with observations of terns carrying fish being scarcer than usual.  As the main driving force for breeding location amongst terns is access to a nearby food source, a reduced supply would perfectly explain a decrease in numbers settling.  The investigation of this is still in it's early stages and there will be further surveys later in the year which will hopefully fill in some of the blanks we currently have.  Of the fish species effected, sandeels and bass (not usually tern prey I should add) appear to be particularly low in number.

  The weather has also not been helpful this year and a small storm surge during spring tides caused the loss of many nests throughout Langstone and particularly Chichester Harbour at the start of June.  Likewise, the near omnipresent rain has made staying warm very difficult for young chicks (a problem which effected the breeding Sandwich Terns more severely but I'll cover that in a later blog explaining how they still fledged an amazing 45+ & counting youngsters!).

  One very unexpected (but thankfully short term and minor) issue faced this year was the appearance of a hedgehog on one of the breeding islands!  We're not sure if it walked across in search of food at low tide or if it found itself washed there unexpectedly but it appeared on camera on June 2nd and disappeared after June 6th! Here's the video which first alerted us to it's presence, I can only tell you I was as astonished as the Black-headed Gull in the background by what I was seeing the first time I viewed this!